Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Somalia twin bombings kill 18 in Mogadishu

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Arming the "good guys"?

Read more

THE DEBATE

Gun Control in the United States: Will the Florida shooting be the turning point?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Giving a voice to the homeless in France

Read more

REPORTERS

'Never Again': The students pushing for US gun control

Read more

#TECH 24

A bright future for solar power

Read more

YOU ARE HERE

Winter in France's Burgundy vineyards

Read more

FOCUS

How French cyber police are patrolling the 'Dark Web'

Read more

ENCORE!

Marseille mon amour: Mediterranean city celebrates love

Read more

Americas

Earliest sign of life on Earth found, claim scientists

© Matt Dodd / Nature Publishing Group / AFP | This handout image received from the Nature journal shows Haematite tubes from the NSB hydrothermal vent deposits that may represent the oldest microfossils and evidence for life on Earth.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-02

Microfossils up to almost 4.3 billion years old found in Canada of microbes are similar to the bacteria that thrive today around sea floor hydrothermal vents and may represent the oldest-known evidence of life on Earth, scientists said on Wednesday.

The fossils from the Hudson Bay shoreline in northern Quebec near the Nastapoka Islands lend credence to the hypothesis that hydrothermal vents spewing hot water may have been the cradle of life on Earth relatively soon after the planet formed, the researchers said.

They also said Earth's planetary neighbor Mars at that time is thought to have had oceans, long since gone, that may have boasted similar conditions conducive to the advent of life.

Tiny filaments and tubes made of a form of iron oxide, or rust, formed by the microbes were found encased in layers of quartz that experts have determined to be between 3.77 billion and 4.28 billion years old, according to the study published in the journal Nature.

The researchers expressed confidence the fossils from northeastern Canada were formed by organisms, saying no non-biological explanation was plausible.

It was primordial microbes like those described in the study that set in motion the evolutionary march toward complex life and, eventually, the appearance of humans 200,000 years ago.

"Understanding how and when life began on Earth helps answer the long-standing questions: Where do we come from? Is there life elsewhere in the universe?" said study researcher Matthew Dodd, a University College London biogeochemist.

The scientists said the primordial microbes' structure closely resembled modern bacteria that dwell near iron-rich hydrothermal vents.

They believe that, like their modern counterparts, they were iron-eaters. The rock's composition was consistent with a deep-sea vent environment.

"This is important for the origin of life," said study researcher Dominic Papineau, a University College London astrobiologist.

"It shows microbial life diversified to specialized microbes very early in Earth history. "It is also important for the evolution of life. It shows that some microbes have not changed significantly" since Earth's early times, Papineau said.

Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago and the oceans appeared about 4.4 billion years ago. If the fossils are indeed 4.28 billion years old, that would suggest "an almost instantaneous emergence of life" after ocean formation, Dodd said.

The fossils appear to be older than any other previously discovered evidence of life. For example, other scientists last year described 3.7 billion-year-old fossilized microbial mats, called stromatolites, from Greenland.

(REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-03-02

  • SPACE

    Scientists discover potentially ‘life-nurturing’ planets in Earth’s galaxy

    Read more

  • ENVIRONMENT

    Landmark deal struck for world's biggest marine reserve in Antarctica

    Read more

  • SWEDEN

    Sauvage, Stoddart and Feringa win chemistry Nobel for molecular machines

    Read more

COMMENT(S)